Make truck parking a top priority of MAP-21, OOIDA exec tells LaHood
Two truckers walk across an already-crowded parking lot at the Petro Stopping Center in North Little Rock, Ark., about 6:30 p.m. on a recent evening. The lot is typically full by 7 each evening. (The Trucker: KEVIN JONES)
By LYNDON FINNEY
The Trucker Staff
GRAIN VALLEY, Mo. — Truck parking should be a top priority as the nation implements the new two-year highway bill, a top official of the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association has told the country’s transportation czar.
Todd Spencer, OOIDA’s executive vice president, told Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood in a letter Tuesday that the need to increase true investment in truck parking, and not simply add electronic signs directing truckers to rest areas that are already full for the evening, is well known to our nation’s truckers.
“Every night they face the prospect of getting to their planned truck stop or rest area only to find it filled to capacity, something that only adding more parking capacity can fix,” Spencer wrote.
Section 1401 of the new bill, known as "Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century" or MAP-21, is the language of a previously-introduced bill called “Jason’s Law,” named after the late late Jason Rivenburg, a trucker who was murdered in 2009 after being told he could not park at his delivery site.
With no other place to park, he stopped his truck at an abandoned gas station and went to sleep for the evening.
A few hours later, he was shot in the head and robbed of the only cash he had on him – the $7 in change from his dinner.
Less than two weeks later, Jason’s wife Hope gave birth to twins.
As a result of Rivenburg’s death, two New York lawmakers introduced “Jason’s Law” in 2009.
It never made it to a vote during the 111th Congress.
The bill was reintroduced in the 112th Congress, but never made it to the floor for a vote.
Sponsors were then able to include “Jason’s Law” in MAP-21.
“Jason’s inability to find safe parking for his tractor and trailer is a situation that is replayed countless times a day by truckers across the country,” Spencer told LaHood. “Not only does a lack of truck parking force truckers to unsafely park along the highway or on interchange ramps, making them targets for criminals and impacting all motorists, but it also puts truckers in the Catch-22 situation of parking in an unsafe location or driving on in the hope of finding parking, putting them at risk of violating Hours of Service regulations or driving while tired.”
MAP-21 sends a clear and direct message to states that they can no longer ignore the truck parking shortage, Spencer said.
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The bill requires the Department of Transportation, in consultation with state motor carrier safety staff, to conduct a survey of each state’s commercial vehicle parking capabilities and needs by April 1, 2014.
“Given the importance of addressing our nation’s commercial vehicle parking challenge and the need to ensure that dollars spent under “Jason’s Law” are focused where they are needed the most, OOIDA urges you and the states to begin work on the required survey as soon as possible,” Spencer wrote.
An official of the Federal Highway Administration told Land Line, OOIDA’s official publication, the survey process would begin in the fall.
Truckers across the nation complain about the lack of parking, much less safe parking.
Drivers interviewed by The Trucker at a North Little Rock, Ark., truck stop earlier this year for a story on truck parking reported they started looking for parking as early as 4 p.m. every day.
One said that about 3 p.m. each day, based on his current location, he would start calculating where he might find safe parking that evening.
Richard Mise, a driver from Indianapolis, summed up the feeling of fellow trucks.
“If it gets past 8 p.m., you can’t find anywhere [to park]. Depending on the time of day you get started, finding a parking place means you might not be able to drive the number of hours you’d like to drive that day,” he said. “If you get started at 9 in the morning, yes, you have to cut it short to find a parking place. The shortage is about the same everywhere I’ve been. The federal regulations have had an impact. Everyone is trying to start early and they are all ending at the same time and it’s flooded everything, rest areas and truck stops.”
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